We believe full disclosure is absolutely critical, both for the husband*** who has acted out sexually and for his wife. Disclosure allows the husband to come clean and finally be free of his secrets, while also empowering the wife with the truth about the behaviors that have violated their relationship. While the process is difficult, disclosure opens the possibility for a couple to have a foundation of truth and honesty within their relationship – a foundation upon which they can grow, heal and restore or any many cases discover true intimacy.
Our desire is to use a facilitated disclosure that helps filter out inappropriate/unnecessary details while insuring that the husband brings the “breadth and depth” of his behaviors into the light. Our intent is to steer the process in a way that supports both husband and wife in this difficult but essential place.
While disclosure is difficult, we have found, in the vast majority of cases, both husband and wife were glad they made the decision to go through disclosure.
For the Wife
We are glad you are here. We know this is a painful place and know it takes courage to continue moving forward. Learning that you have been betrayed in a very personal way is devastating. This is why it is so critical to reach out for support. The husband is not the only one who needs and deserves supportive care. It is our recommendation that both individuals find their own support person to guide them through the disclosure process. It is also helpful for each partner to fully participate in a support group before, during and after the process.
The following are our recommendations for a successful disclosure.
First, we want you to meet one-on-one with your recovery coach at least twice prior to disclosure.
- Meeting 1- The first meeting will allow us to get to know you, hear an overview of your relationship, and help us understand what discovery, to this point, has been like for you. We will answer questions you may have in regards to the disclosure process. We will also provide you with a working pre-disclosure document that includes a list of questions for you to answer that will help facilitate our next session as well as help you prepare for disclosure.
- Meeting 2-The second meeting we will go over your pre-disclosure document, as well as talk about anything else that has come up since the first meeting. We will also share with you what others have found helpful leading up to disclosure.
After we have met this second time, the answers to your questions will be shared with your husband’s recovery coach so he can be well prepared and also make sure he has all the information he needs to from your husband. He will not share any of your document with him.
We understand this is a difficult process so please reach out to your recovery coach and others in your support network. We have found it extremely beneficial for wives to come to our New Hope Women’s Group. There are others who have walked this same path. You aren’t alone. In our group we also work through materials to help begin the healing journey and recover more of you.
For the Husband
We are glad you are here. Honestly facing your struggles with sexual acting out behaviors is a scary place and even the thought of sharing it all with anyone, let alone the one you have hurt the most, can be terrifying. However, we believe it is absolutely essential both for helping you find freedom, and in order to have any hope of saving (or in many cases resurrecting) your relationship with your wife.
- Your part of the process begins with you working through the “Full Sexual History Inventory” in chapter 3 of Darrell Brazell’s New Hope For Sexual Integrity recovery manual.
- Once completed, you can schedule a session with your recovery coach (Usually Darrel) or counselor to go through your inventory. The primary purpose of this part is for you. It provides you an opportunity to get everything on the table with someone and experience the power of walking in the light. (See I John 1:7-9 & James 5:16). It also helps you begin to see the full extent and trajectory of your struggle over your lifetime. Finally, we will provide you with guidelines to help you write out your disclosure document as well as point you to chapter 14 “Telling your wife about your struggle” in Darrell’s New Hope For Sexual Integrity.
- Your next session will focus on going over your written document, making sure it covers the “breadth and depth” of your acting out behaviors while removing the “barbs” of unnecessary details. (See note below in “Final Thoughts”) We will also coach you on the procedure we will use in your disclosure meeting. You will need to provide your recovery coach with a draft copy of your written disclosure prior to this meeting. Your coach will provide suggestions on your letter and together you will make a determination if you are ready to proceed to the disclosure meeting or if you need more time to continue working on your disclosure letter.
Once both spouses are ready, we will have a joint meeting with the couple and both recovery coaches. Here, the husband will share the breadth and depth of his sexual acting out. This will not be a time to process the information or the relationship. The goal will simply be to get all the needed information out in the light. We will set up additional meeting times to process the disclosure and deal with additional issues but this initial meeting will focus on the facts of disclosure.
A few things we advise for disclosure day
- Don’t assume it will go well because “its only a couple little things she doesn’t know.” Many times what seems “little” to the offender turns out to be huge to the one who has been betrayed even if the she already knows about other “bigger” things.
- Don’t assume disclosure will be the end of the relationship. It may be, however, we have been amazed through the years what many are able to work through once truth is clearly on the table and once the wife believes the husband is committed to truth and a plan for recovery.
- Drive separately.
- Arrange childcare both for the meeting and for time afterwards.
- Have a safety plan in place in case the disclosure is especially difficult.
- Have a plan for each of you to stay somewhere else that night if necessary (Usually best if husband stays somewhere out of the home but there are times where it can be helpful for the husband to stay home with the kids and the wife can stay somewhere else to process the new information.)
The Meeting Structure
- Initially, the wife and her coach will meet in one room while the husband and his coach will meet in another. This is a time to catch your breath, talk over any last minute concerns or questions and if you are comfortable, have your coach pray for you.
- When the wife is ready, her coach will text his coach and let them know they are ready.
- Husband and coach will join and one of the coaches will give a fairly brief overview of the plan for the day.
- The husband will then read his disclosure letter.
- While he is reading his letter, the wife’s coach and the husband’s coach keep an eye out for any signs of “overwhelm” in both individuals, but especially the wife. At any point, anyone in the room is free to ask for a pause and even to take a break where the husband and his coach physically leave the room.
- We encourage the wife to save her questions until after the husband has read his entire letter because many times questions she has may be answered later in the letter. However, we will do everything we can to help the wife ask whatever she needs to ask.
- The wife’s coach will have a copy of the husband’s written disclosure and will have worked out a way for the wife to let her know whenever there are things said that she wants to make note of and/or to circle back for clarifying questions.
- Once the husband has finished reading his disclosure letter, he and his coach will leave the room and allow the wife and her coach to see what clarifying questions she wants to ask and ascertain her capacity for those questions. Most wives then ask the husband and his coach to return to ask any clarifying questions. However, this is always based on the wife’s capacity. If she needs to be done, that is perfectly fine. Also, being “done” in the moment doesn’t void her opportunity for clarifying questions as we can always schedule another session later.
- Once the wife has been able to ask the questions she needs to ask, we will close out the meeting and go our separate ways.
- If a wife is not able to ask her clarifying questions on the day of disclosure, or if she later realizes she has other significant questions, it may be necessary to schedule another meeting with everyone (husband, wife and both coaches) for her to get the clarity she needs. If that happens we will follow a similar structure.
- Most couples need some time for the dust to settle and for both husband and wife to have some time to process everything. We highly encourage both individuals to already have a follow up appointment with their coach scheduled soon after the disclosure meeting. The husband is often fighting between very opposite feelings of fear and relief. Fear that his marriage might be over and relief that he is no longer hiding his sexual behaviors. The wife is often wrestling with a host of emotions ranging from relief (it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be) to horror, shame, disgust, and an incredible amount of hurt. Having support in place for the intensity of these emotions is essential for both partners.
- At some point after disclosure, we highly recommend the wife write an “Emotional Impact Letter” and share it with her husband in another joint session. This helps her give voice to the pain she has suffered in disclosure and during the time of “knowing but not knowing.”
- After receiving his wife’s “Emotional Impact Letter” we also recommend the husband work on an “Emotional Restitution Letter.” This letter will help the husband take ownership of the pain he created through dishonesty, manipulation and control issues that invariably accompany addiction.
- Here is a section from Darrell’s New Hope For Sexual Integrity recovery manual that we believe is helpful.
I believe a wife needs to know what she needs to know and it isn’t her husband’s place or even my place to tell her what she needs. An analogy that many find helpful is that of barbs on a fishing hook. If you get hooked, there is no way for it not to hurt. However, if there are no barbs on the hook, it will come out with less pain and leave less scarring. Details of a man’s acting out are like barbs on a hook so I encourage wives to pray and ask for clarity about what they really need to know.
I also counsel couples with what I call a 24 hour rule: I tell husbands, “If your wife asks something that you believe is a ‘detail’ rather than a ‘breadth and depth’ question, tell her you are concerned the answer is a barb that will only bring pain but that if she still wants the question answered at this time tomorrow, you will answer it.” I tell the wife to then pray and ask the Father if she really needs the answer. Many times this enables her to allow God to calm her fear to a manageable level and make a good decision about her question. Even if she still wants it answered, they both know she is not asking simply out of place of fear.New Hope For Sexual Integrity, pp. 198-199
- Try to give yourself grace for the process. Disclosure is a difficult and painful thing for both husband and wife. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Cry out to God before, during and after disclosure. Ask Him to reveal his Immanuel presence to you in the midst of your pain, your fear, your grief and whatever else comes to the surface for you. He understands your pain and He longs to join you wherever you are at.
- Know that disclosure is a very significant place on the journey of recovery but it is not recovery. There is much work to be done post disclosure. Injuries of the heart–damage to our primary attachment, is one of, if not the most painful thing in life. As an unavoidable result, there will be much to grieve, much to mourn and much to learn. However, if you continue on the path of recovery, you will find God is faithful to be with you and that he also provides great rewards along the journey.
***(Yes we know betrayal happens the other direction as well but for simplicity and because we work primarily with sexually addicted men and their wives, we will refer to husband as the betrayer here)